Many martial arts schools have outreach programs either open to the public or at local colleges, high schools, or youth programs that are of a limited duration (one day or a handful of sessions) and focus on women's self-defense, particularly rape defense.

What material is fundamental to these courses? What should students come away thinking and being able to do?

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    I think a really critical question here is "How long do you have?". A teacher of mine used to do one-night (three-hour) seminars at the start of term for the co-eds, and that is a very different situation than two hours, twice a week for two months with I have also seen. Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 0:50
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    @dmckee I agree, but I think there's room enough for both syllabuses in this question. The difference between three hours and 32 hours exist, but there's a bigger difference between both of those and regular training. The key is "what do you teach to people who don't train". Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 0:56
  • Some interesting related discussion in this thread. Commented Jun 7, 2013 at 22:10

10 Answers 10


[Nota Bene: A lot of this is going to piss off a lot of you. I am most certainly NOT blaming any victims by saying any of this; I'm proposing a better way to prepare people for the harsh reality that certain people are just not nice.]

What Is Rape?

I wasn't going to answer this question. I like Sardathrion's comment that "Whatever you think you know about rape is probably wrong," and it's absolutely true. I also liked his inclusion of Mark MacYoung's page, which has a lot of good information, and encourages personal responsibility (for which I'm a huge advocate prior to becoming a victim).

I posed a question here as a focal point to be considered because there are a lot of important pieces of information that are being ignored. Studies have suggested that 3% of women on a university campus in a 9 month period are raped, and as many as 25% of women will experience at least an attempted sexual assault during a degree program.

Let's go ahead and give rape an actual, usable definition: Rape is the commission of a sexual intrusion against another against the victim's will and consent.

Understanding Rape Myths

So let's start out by looking at something called the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale (aka IRMA) -- I'm going to pose a series of statements and I want you to consider your answers on a standard Likert Scale of 1 ("Strongly Disgree") to 5("Strongly Agree"). Remember, you're on your own so no one knows your answers:

  1. If a girl is raped while she is drunk, she is at least somewhat responsible for letting things get out of hand.
  2. When girls go to parties wearing slutty clothes, they are asking for trouble.
  3. If a girl goes to a room alone with a guy at a party, it is her own fault if she is raped.
  4. If a girl acts like a slut, eventually she is going to get into trouble.
  5. When girls get raped, it’s often because the way they said “no” was unclear.
  6. If a girl initiates kissing or hooking up, she should not be surprised if a guy assumes she wants to have sex.
  7. When guys rape, it is usually because of their strong desire for sex.
  8. Guys don’t usually intend to force sex on a girl, but sometimes they get too sexually carried away.
  9. Rape happens when a guy’s sex drive goes out of control.
  10. If a guy is drunk, he might rape someone unintentionally.
  11. It shouldn’t be considered rape if a guy is drunk and didn’t realize what he was doing.
  12. If both people are drunk, it can’t be rape.
  13. If a girl doesn’t physically resist sex — even if protesting verbally — it can’t be considered rape.
  14. If a girl doesn’t physically fight back, you can’t really say it was rape.
  15. A rape probably doesn’t happen if a girl doesn’t have any bruises or marks.
  16. If the accused “rapist” doesn’t have a weapon, you really can’t call it rape.
  17. If a girl doesn’t say “no” she can’t claim rape.
  18. A lot of times, girls who say they were raped agreed to have sex and then regret it.
  19. Rape accusations are often used as a way of getting back at guys.
  20. A lot of times, girls who say they were raped often led the guy on and then had regrets.
  21. A lot of times, girls who claim they were raped have emotional problems.
  22. Girls who are caught cheating on their boyfriends sometimes claim it was rape.

Scoring this is simple: the lower the score, the less susceptible you are to "Rape Myths", those little bits of information that have been passed around as truth about rape for as long as man's existed.

We can use this to heighten our understanding of what rape is, and by sampling this data and it's studied results, we can understand the biases against rape, and look into ways to prevent it through education of well-equiped bystanders and not simply potential victims. FYI, something interesting came out of the study

It is interesting to find that there is a correlation between high scores on this test and a decreased likelihood of intervening in a sexual assault.

The Inadequate Approach of Rape Defense Courses

A very common, almost comical approach approach to Rape Prevention has been the "STOP! RAPE!" then kick to the testicles. Some of the slightly better courses teach women how to bridge and roll.

For the smallest minority of victims, this may be enough. For that minute cluster that actually is the victim of an attack where they see it coming or are capable of performing the poorly trained and hardly practiced movements picked up from a weekend seminar, this is a victory. But it is not enough.

The approach of every Rape Defense course I've encountered has portrayed the same message: "You don't have to be the victim." While this can be good, and even empowering, it is isolating, and puts the burden solely on the victim.

The Psychology of Rape Prevention

A girl is apparently drunk at a frat party and passes out on a couch. The guy sitting next to her puts her arm around his shoulder and stands her up. She's clearly in no condition to resist. She made a mistake; a horrible mistake that is about to follow her for the rest of her life.

It's very easy to think "She needs to be responsible for herself." And yes, she should have. However, now she can't. Maybe it was a big mistake like drinking too much. Maybe it was a small mistake like not keeping a close enough eye on her drink. Either way, one person in a room of dozens is now about to take advantage of her; and all it takes is one of those people to speak up. But will they?

The bystanders in the room are going through a cognitive process as this is happening: * Noticing the action. (This guy is trying to stand up a drunk girl). [NB: In the social context of a party, based on social norms of what is polite in such situations, a person is less likely to draw attention to a perceived threat. Latane and Darley. 1968] * Evaluating the Context ("This guy is trying to stand up a drunk girl at a party.") [NB: Even * Evaluating their degree of responsibility ("I don't know the drunk girl or the guy; they're probably dating.") * How to assist ("I could intervene directly, but he looks pretty strong; or I could tell someone else and it'd be their responsibility"). * Implementation (Act or don't.)

What is occurring is called the Bystander Effect, notably observed following the brutal murder of Kitty Genovese in which questioned witnesses rationalized away their responsibility in preventing the crime, some claiming they thought it was a loud television, others assuming that other people had already called the police so why should they...

Stanley Milgram (psychologist renowned for his studies of obedience to authority) posits that commonly bystanders present a callous approach to those in need of help due to highly developed coping mechanisms related to the information overload in their daily lives.

Training for the Future

As martial artists, we know the value of repetitive action. By repeatedly drilling a response, we make the response natural, even if it's a reconditioning of an established flinch. Training in rape defense needs to be a reconditioning of established conditioned responses. That is, if we're undertaking the responsibility of leading rape prevention classes, we must do so in a way that is effective and reconditions the students to react in an effective way.

By reconditioning against the Bystander Effect and training women not only how to look out for themselves, but for those around them, rape prevention classes can take on a drastically more effective curriculum.

Considerations for Training

  • Awareness - Being aware of community views on Rape Myths can keep you safe. The fact is that even if you answered 5s on all of those questions, there's someone out there who genuinely believes those statements merited a 1, and is willing to act on it given the chance. Encourage awareness of surroundings, and seeking out help before you actually need it. Most parking garages do have security that will escort you to your car. Walking in a pair makes you a much less likely target than walking alone.
  • Community - We build communities as means of protection; to protect ourselves by relying on our neighbors. A certain level of responsibility comes from acknowledging this, and looking out for your neighbor means they are looking out for you.
  • Action - We need to get out of the habits of the Bystander Effect. We are all guilty of it. Social norms are conditioned responses to common stimulus - "Don't stare", or "Shake hands with the nice man". They are also designed to counter instinctual responses to fear reactions. Drilling the response to pre-assault indicators from a 1st and 3rd person perspective is the only way to prevent the crime from occurring.
  • Combatives - We are not training combatives in any effective sense; we need to emphasize that their natural reactions are going to be better for them than half-hearted training, and that combatives are about training empowerment. By encouraging the students to see that they can fight back effectively, they can begin to claim their confidence. Encouraging continued training is a plus. We all make mistakes, and for some people those mistakes come at a horrible price. Resisting when able is imperative, but confidence built up before increases the likelihood that a victim will pursue justice.

[tl;dr – If you're going to teach the "Kick to the Groin" method of rape prevention, you are doing a disservice to your students]

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    Thanks for the IRMA, I wasn't aware of a codified version. Great answer. False empowerment is dangerous. Commented May 3, 2013 at 17:29
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    Sorry about the length... It's just such a huge topic to discuss too lightly.
    – stslavik
    Commented May 3, 2013 at 17:30
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    Not at all; I think the length made it possible to say things like "walk in pairs" without being reductionist about the problem. Commented May 3, 2013 at 17:52

One of my old instructor used to teach a couple of ways.

3-hour seminar

One approach was a free, one evening seminar (3 hour long) usually offered in the first or second week of the term at a university. Obviously this was a very limited unit. The focus was on rape-by-force and rape-in-a-coercive-social-setting scenarios (not the whole story of course, but it is the kind of thing that martial arts can help with). Materials covered include:

  • Message of empowerment: you don't have to put up with that.
  • Situational awareness and avoidance. Avoid going into the dark and isolated parts of campus and the surrounding spaces alone at night; keep eyes out in parking lots; the blue lights are bike-patrol call boxes and they will escort you and so on. Avoid being too drunk in social setting with people you don't know very well; especially without a buddy.

    Lots of emphasis on the buddy system for social settings. Your sober (or at least more sober) buddy is a resource for identifying and avoid threats and a possible deterrent to casual attacks.

  • A shouting-in-peoples-faces warmup exercise which tied into the
  • Three part strategy for a potential rape-by-force scenario: (1) draw attention (2) escape (3) evade. This was where the physical part of the unit came in.

    The strategy was shout/escape/follow-up/run/keep-shouting.

    Basic technique escapes from two wrist grabs, a couple of bear hugs and the hammer lock were taught, each with a distracting or off-balancing strike at the end. Technique was practiced on some victi volunteers brought along for the role (me!), and on each other to a lesser extent.

    Emphasis that the purpose of that counter is to make time to get away.

  • Some discussion of where to run. That is, towards people.

Obviously this kind of thing is very limited, there just isn't enough time to do much and many students don't have much by way or preparation.

And truth be told it was also a kind of loss leader for the PE course version which would bring in a little money.

A 12 week PE course through the local university.

Two hours twice a week and students encouraged to practice outside of class. Not "rape prevention" as such, but it was a goal in the unit and made part of the discussion.

  • Here there is a comprehensive set of ~16 escapes and a more flexible set of counters (some throws and some counter-lock-then-shove), and the students drill them with the goal of being able to react in under one second when blindfolded and presented with the attacks in unknown order and side. Again, more experienced students from the "martial arts" group would participate. That blindfold drill was instructive to me, I thought I knew my stuff but I fell apart the first few time through the drill.

  • Some confined spaces (other students hold up some of the mats to make a corridor) and low light work.

  • Some plain old physical fitness, but not strongly emphasized. A system that requires you to be a trooper to use just isn't going to work for most people.

  • Because the student do much more trading of technique they get chance to understanding that they can go on after being thrown about a bit. This being a beginner's class at the University they were not subject to really serious abuse. (The instructor use to brag that his classes had a lower injury rate than the golf classes.)


Whatever you think you know about rape is probably wrong.

So, I suggest that before even starting to think about what material you will teach, you must learn about rape. A god web starting point is the section on rape from MacYoung's site). Next, find your nearest rape support group and contact them to ask them to teach you. Finally, look up your local police force and ask them to teach you. The latter should give you statistics on rape in your area from which you can extrapolate what situations are the most likely to happen in your area. For example, most (2/3) of rapists are not masked strangers. Then you can start thinking of creating a program that will give women (and men) some tools that may prevent them being raped. Yes, men do get raped too.

Information is beautiful has a graphics that you must study. The data comes from the UK but is nonetheless interesting to all nationalities.

Now that you have some more knowledge, you can look into how your martial art can be adapted to help. This could be as simple as "be more self confidence" or "how not to panic when hit in the face really hard", or whatever else. If nothing else, martial art training does improve your ability to cope with violence and defend yourself against it -- be it only fitness to walk/run away. It is possible that your martial art may not be useful for the type of rape that happens in your area. However, that depends on many external factors and there is no one true way.

The only thing that students should come out of a course like that is that there are no easy answers. They need to stack the odds against being attacked and martial art training is just one part of what they should do.

As a side note, if a person wants to join your club because of a sexual assault in their past, please make sure that you support them in contacting your local law enforcement agency about said assault.

Edit after comment: Just to be clear, prevent rape is in no way, shape, or form meant as victim blame.

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    There are some points to take away here, and a big one is to look into why and how rape happens. It's not something martial arts can necessarily prevent in situations where rape may occur. I'd be careful about how to set up something to "prevent rape" because that starts trudging upon victim blame.
    – user15
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 11:45
  • MacYoung's page is chock-full of victim-blaming, and demanding that sexual assault survivors go to police is patronizing. Someone who has had their autonomy violently taken from them doesn't need someone else--someone who they don't even know and haven't given any authority over their lives more than asking for training--telling them what to do. Going to the police is the victim's call. If you have an opinion about it, keep it to yourself until they ask you. But "there are no easy answers" is spot-on. Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 14:07
  • @DaveLiepmann: I believe that it is our duty to help the victim in whatever way possible. This includes but is not limited to supporting the victim in reporting the crime to the relevant law enforcement agency. Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 14:39
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    @DaveLiepmann: Okay, I can see how one could misinterpret what I said. Post edited and thank you for pointing it out. Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 13:54
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    This is, in my opinion, hands down the best answer. "Rape prevention" or "Rape defense" courses need to emphasize a lack of answers – they need to demonstrate that we don't have a one-stop answer, but that we want to encourage an increase in awareness, and offer a means of improving their odds. I went to and assisted in a number of courses before I taught my first; but it wasn't until I had a woman in my class tell me about her experiences that I understood even a little. Any training is about reclaiming power and self-worth, two things many victims feel they've lost.
    – stslavik
    Commented May 2, 2013 at 18:07

First, the teacher should understand that if they're teaching even a moderately sized class, the odds are overwhelming that someone has experienced a violent sexual assault. If not them, then someone they are close with. Even overlooking the fact that those memories are painful, consider this when saying that such-and-such technique will work to prevent rape. They may have tried it and failed.

Rape is not a masked man in the bushes

Some rapes involve a masked man jumping out of a bush. Most don't.

Most rapes are committed by someone known by the victim, often someone they trust. It doesn't always involve substantial violence, since drugs, alcohol, or the threat of violence may be enough. It's important that students and teachers both understand this. Awareness of your surroundings while walking down the street is nice, but it's almost irrelevant to preventing rape.

There are no easy answers

Fighting is fighting. Fighting back against sexual assault is fighting. There are no tricks, no special techniques, that will make fighting easy. The attacker is often bigger, stronger, and possessing of greater experience in wrestling, hitting, and getting hit. One's odds of defeating such a person--that is, defending oneself physically against an assault, sexual or otherwise--are improved through technique and physicality. Hail-Mary knees to the groin, one-in-a-million knockout shots, and this-is-my-only-hope eye rakes cannot be relied upon. They might work, they might not. Actual self-defense skills such as boxing and wrestling can be relied upon at least somewhat because they've been tested.

A lot of the teachers of this topic are fit men. To get in the right headspace, I did the following math: I'm about 5'10'' and 175 pounds. The average woman is 5'4'' and 150 pounds. (You can also use the height and weight of a specific woman you know, to understand their point of view.) I extrapolate from my size to see how big the average man would be if I were 5'4'' and 150#. That means I should envision men at about 6 foot 4 and 205 pounds. Or bigger. To mimic the difference in athleticism, envision this guy as a college sports star. That's your attacker. If at all possible, find someone the appropriate size and have them wrestle you to the ground, or spar with them under MMA rules.

Probably the most important lessons to impart are:

  • to explain the difficulty of the problem
  • to distribute contact information for local crime victim's organizations, therapy, and support groups (introducing a representative of these groups is even better, since they can speak about how to help someone in the aftermath of an assault)
  • to show the effectiveness and fun of long-term training in fighting arts

Martial techniques to cover

In addition to the concepts above, there should be at least some physical content, if only to show students how hard it is to pull off these techniques.

I've found the biggest return on investment has been from three basic activities:

  • Yelling, to give the student experience with making noise. Emphasize that it's OK to be loud, it's OK to make a scene. Have one student grab the other by the clothing violently, and have the person grabbed respond by getting an inch from the others' face and yelling "go away" or profanity of their choice.
  • Hitting pads. It makes students tired, gives them a taste of what it feels like to strike in anger, and reminds them just how hard they can or can't hit. A minute of knee strikes is good, as are groin-level straight kicks (often more difficult than they imagine) and punching pads as in boxing. If students do well with this, some very light hitting back is good.
  • Some form of free wrestling, like one would find in an intro to Brazilian jiu-jitsu class. Briefly pin them, let them escape, and repeat. If you later show students specific techniques, it is clearer to them how useful those techniques are if they've felt the helplessness of being pinned.

The latter two should be done with extreme caution and the reminder that these activities might be upsetting to students.

In addition, specific techniques that are popular, easy to grasp, and relevant include:

  • Knee strikes while grabbing the opponent's head or shoulders
  • Bridging escape from mount
  • A technical stand-up, including kicks from the ground
  • Simple finger and thumb locks starting from a rear bear hug (these should be recognized as low percentage)
  • Straight kicks, jab, and cross

These techniques will not be sufficient for someone to reliably defend themselves. They are meant merely as exposure. Do not expect students to leave with any skills, nor retain any specific techniques.

I find it useful to end with a demonstration of two skilled practitioners sparring, either with strikes or without, to demonstrate the utility of training martial arts over the long haul. Seeing a small woman competently kickbox, or a small man sweeping a larger man from guard to mount, is eye-opening.

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    Nice. Especially about the scaling argument. I'm 5'8" and about 160# when I'm really in shape. I have thrown guys who're 6'2" and 200# in hard sparring. And I've knocked them stumbling back with kicks or swept their legs. Sometimes. When it all comes together. Most of the time I'm lucky to escape the counter that's coming: all to often they've handed me my head on a platter. Commented May 3, 2013 at 0:32

I've done this a few times back when I was teaching (we described it as "women's self-defense", not rape specifically).

For a short seminar, I concentrated on only two things:

  1. Situational awareness -- basic rules of thumb to stay out of dangerous situations, be aware of your surroundings, and not to act/look like an easy victim.

  2. Practice hitting or kicking something as hard as they can, and not panicking when somebody grabs them or does something physical with them. We only taught basic, can't-screw-it-up techniques like palm-heel strike or kick to the knee or shin. But it's shocking how many people can't bring themselves to strike with any real force, even an inanimate object like a big kicking pad, or utterly lose their composure if somebody grabs them (even in a class). Not that they don't have the strength, it's just that they've never willed their body to apply their force to striking something and (especially for women) are conditioned to be very hesitant to do it. Heck, sometimes it was a struggle just to have them give a good loud yell. Breaking that mental barrier -- not panic because they're in a physical situation, yell loud, hit hard -- was, I figured, the biggest improvement somebody could make in a couple hours, and it didn't require teaching anything that couldn't be mastered in minutes. For some of them, it was a revelation that they could actually make their voice and body do it.


I'm going to concentrate my answer on techniques, I presume that in the course you will cover off basics like being aware of your surroundings, checking your vehicle before getting in to it, your car keys are a handy impromptu weapon, trust no-one, if attacked don't concentrate on trying to knee the groin, etc.

With this sort of course you have to recognize the catch-22 that you have:

  • the student must be taught not to panic
  • they must be able to apply the techniques they've learned in a blind panic

The surest way to do this is to compile an arsenal of one-strike remedies. These are the moves that with just the one strike will either disable (preferably) or slow down the attacker. You will be able to take some of these moves straight from whichever art is the basis of what you are teaching, some of them will be the good old "vital point" strikes (like a kick/knee to the groin, or finger tip into the eye), some of them will come from other arts.

The crucial thing is these moves must be incredibly simple and effective, the person using them hasn't got time to think, analyze, doesn't necessarily have a lot of strength or large range of motion, and most importantly has not practiced endlessly to perfect the technique.

As an example of one of these techniques, consider the move where the victim does a downward striking palm heel landing in the hollow just above the attacker's chin bone. This move is easy to perform because the victim simply has to swing (flail) their arm while opening their hand, the critical thing is to hit in a downward motion into that spot. This is a crippling blow, if you land it flush it will knock out the attacker for up to 20 minutes or so*. It is easy to learn, easy to practice (I've been one of the poor practice dummies on the end of these), and the technique doesn't have to be perfect to still be devastating.

When teaching them moves that work, you also need to teach them moves that don't work, or are not particularly effective. An example is a kick or knee to the groin - it can work, but is very hard to land a good clean solid blow as most males will instinctively protect that area and it only takes a small change in position for the groin to become difficult to get (not to mention it just may not work if the attacker is amped up on adrenaline or meth).

Above all what these students must take away from their class is a sense of positivity and certainty - they need to know that if they are attacked they can do something about it, this empowerment can be the best weapon you can give them.

*I have this direct from the wife of another martial artist who had to use it once. She knocked the attacker out and had plenty of time to call the police and for them to turn up. This should also leave the attacker with an excruciating headache, this alone should distract them from whatever they were originally going to do.

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    It's nice that a given technique worked, but that's a one-in-a-million shot. So-called "one-strike disabling" techniques should not be relied on. False empowerment is dangerous. Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 14:08
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    Sorry @Dave, but it's not a one-in-a-million shot. I've been there, I've been on the receiving end as a training partner, I've taught it - it works beautifully. Of course it shouldn't be the only thing they know and rely on, like any other technique it does have its chances at failure. Your challenge is to teach them simple effective techniques that they will hardly (if ever) practice between the occassional session with you.
    – slugster
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 21:41
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    Both learning not to panic (or at least to control your panic), and drilling technique until you can do it in a panic are core ideas for any kind of physical defense. Alas, they require time on the training floor to accomplish and many student won't put in the time. Commented Feb 2, 2013 at 19:43

Most importantly of all, awareness. I train outdoors a coupe of days a week in a dark path with some friends. we go there because there are not too many people passing by and because the lack of light and slippery or wet surfaces make a good and realistic training environment for urban combat survival.

Still, surprisingly enough we see women walking there by themselves, or with a dog. This is usually after 21:00. Rapists are usually like predators, who will stalk their preys and use deception to launch their attacks. Getting a girl to train punches and kicks with the intent of freeing herself from a rape attack is a ludicrous idea, unless they are dealing with some drunk guys.

The best defense for this is teaching people about the psychology of planned attacks and make them aware of how to avoid those places. If it is really necessary for your wife to go through a dark alley alone, it is better to give her a weapon. As I said, predators know when and how to launch an attack against a victim, regardless of being male of female.

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    Thanks for your answer! I think it's important to remember, however, that the vast majority of rapes do not stem from women out jogging or returning home late at night and being ambushed. Most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. (Thanks go to @DavidHClements for the link.) Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 16:23
  • very good point @DaveLiepmann.
    – Lex
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 16:26
  • Situational awareness is critical, but you can't train that in a short time anymore than you can develop sophisticated technique-based fighting skills without on-going practice. Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 1:25
  • @dmckee I could not agree more. In fact I would risk saying it might take even longer to enter this frame of mind which is another reason why this should receive more attention than throwing 200 combos against your shadow on a day. So why do you think traditional Dojos still overlook this? If I had 5 days to run a rape defence course, I would spend the first 4 on predator/prey psychology and situation awareness and one day in physical aspects, making sure I'd make the students aware that these "physical" techniques would be useless if not practised regularly.
    – Lex
    Commented Feb 28, 2013 at 7:33

There are many good points in the other answer about what to do during the training. Here is a list of what might be useful and what not really.

  • How the predator thinks? Exercise using that as a base.
  • Personal perception. How do you look and behave and what to do to be a hard target for a predator.
  • Avoidance. This is related to first exercise. Do not put yourself in a place where predator will wait.
  • Detecting rape indicators. We can predict what might happen. When someone is approaching the car with the key we might predict that he will get in and start th engine and go. Rape is detectable as well as is everything else. The key is to spot the indicators.
  • When you make mistakes. Environmental awareness, use of environment, secondary crime scene.
  • How to behave in predatory violence. Deescalate.
  • Damage awareness, "freeze", and tools to cope.
  • Pactical exercises with a lot of stress in natural conditions, not in a nice clean studio.

What not to do:

Standard martial arts training kicks, blocks, and so on. No use what so ever. To do stuff like punching kicking you need to practice a lot even good fighters under predatory assault forgetting stuff. Personal experience.


Sardathrion already linked to Marc MacYoung's thoughts, which I would suggest as a starting point for anyone doing a rape defense class. From there, well depends on how much time you have.

I would say for starters covering where rapes occur and how to avoid being rape (i.e. making yourself less of a target) should be on top of the list. After that you can go into techniques. I usually tell them to "fight like a girl", meaning punch, kick, bite, gouge eyes, scream, etc., then run to safety as soon as you can.

I find too many rape defense courses focus too much on the techniques and not enough on how to avoid being a victim in the first place, just my opinion.


A good rape defense course will first and foremost teach women to avoid a situation where they are at risk in the first place. Bonus points if they drill it into women's heads that they can't knock a guy out like in the movies.

Once that has been driven into their heads, another feature of a good rape defense course is that women will be taught to poke eyes, kick crotches and scream and run like hell.

On the other hand, features of a bad rape defense course is when where women are taught all sorts of fancy bullshido techniques like "driving the nose bone into the brain" or double-slapping the eardrums. I've also seen them teach arm bars and joint locks to women, as if a pretty little thing is going to be able to perform one on a guy twice her size and amped up on adrenalin.

In summary, Good: avoid or escape. Common sense. Bad: Grrl Power!

  • Unfortunately you need to concentrate on the defense not the avoidance - in a vast majority of cases avoidance is not an option because the victim has been "selected" or targeted. While I agree that some techniques are a waste of time of just ineffective, you must teach them something other than just avoidance.
    – slugster
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 21:43
  • Which is why the second paragraph is there. Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 7:05

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